Some good advice this past week has been, "If you don't have to go outside, don't." We are smack dab in the middle of one of the hottest summers I can remember. Not only is the temperature hot enough to make you wilt, the humidity is well into the 90 per cent range also. If the humidity were any higher, you would need scuba gear to go outside.
The forecast for the weekend is a little friendlier, with highs only in the upper 80's and a good chance of scattered showers. It might be a little breezier on Friday, but we have a good overall forecast and are looking at a couple of days of southerly winds at only 5-10 knots and then only back up to 10-15 on Monday.
The incredible billfish bite has temporarily slowed to being merely good, but should take off again at almost any time. Just about any afternoon, you can cruise the waterfronts and see upside-down blue and white marlin flags hanging from most outriggers and flapping in the breeze. There are also a fair number of upside-down sailfish flags.
As the billfish bite slows a little, the dolphin bite is surging again, along with more wahoo. The offshore boats are also catching an occasional king or tuna.
While the rough seas prevented last weekend's tournaments from showcasing it, there are a lot of kings being caught. The kings were slow in arriving and many experts would say the water is a little too hot for them, but there is a very good king bite happening right now. I expect to see some heavy leaderboards from the tournaments this weekend.
The kings are being caught from the piers out to around 70 feet of water. If this weekend's weather is as good as the forecast, many boats in the RSWSC and Island Harbor tournaments will cross Cape Lookout Shoals and there have been some good reports on kings over there.
There is some occasional good activity in the surf and just beyond, but the pier catches are down some from the past few weeks. There are some nice fish being caught occasionally, but the bite is sporadic and mixed. The reports keep coming of tarpon being hooked, but I haven't yet heard of one being landed.
A few tarpon have been caught (and released) by boats fishing around the inlets and just beyond the surf. The big advantage with a boat is the fisherman can chase the tarpon, while pier anglers are limited.
There have been some good early morning catches of Spanish mackerel, but as soon as the day heats up they slow down. More keeper flounder are being caught also. These and the occasional king are highlighting the pier catches. Other fish in the pier catches include spadefish, bluefish, drum, sheepshead, small sharks, and pompano.
Spanish mackerel fishermen in boats have an advantage. They can use the boat to find and reach the schools of Spanish, which have been just outside most inlets and along the beaches. Even from boats, the better time to catch them has been just after sunrise, with the very late afternoon a distant second.
Flounder fishing has been good for several weeks. Some of the best reports have been from fishermen targeting the nearshore ocean artificial reefs. There have also been pretty consistent flounder catches along the edges of the channels leading to the inlets, in deeper holes in the marshes, in the sloughs between the bars in the inlets and on the nearshore ocean artificial reefs. If you want some fresh flounder and can stand the heat, this is a good time to catch them.
Red drum have been biting pretty well all summer and are fairly easy to pattern. They tend to move into the shallow areas in the marshes as the tide rises and then retreat to the deeper channels as the tide falls. While a few larger drum are being caught occasionally, the bulk of the catch are mainly "puppy" drum, ranging from just under to just above slot size (18 to 27 inches).
Larger drum are being caught in Pamlico Sound during the late afternoons and evenings. As in past years, the better areas have been off Swan, Raccoon and Cedar Islands. They are also along the drop-offs at Royal Shoals and Brant Island Shoals, but those are longer runs. This is a release only fishery and care should be taken to prevent deep hooking the drum, plus fighting them quickly and releasing them in good condition for survival. The Owen Lupton Drum Rig is a good starting point as it helps prevent deep hooking and should be available at most area tackle shops.
There are also tarpon in Pamlico Sound and the Neuse and Pamlico Rivers. They generally feed early in the mornings along several of the larger shoals and retreat to deeper water as the sun gets higher in the sky. On calm days, pods of tarpon can be spotted from long distances as they roll and gulp air.
Congratulations are in order for several skippers and crews who excelled during last weekend's tournaments. Capt. Lee Parsons and the Gotta Fly crew won the Capt. Eddy Haneman Sailfish Tournament with 2 releases. Capt. Brian Harrington and the Run Off crew won the Ducks Unlimited Band The Billfish Tournament with 1,000 points gathered by releasing a blue marlin, 2 white marlin and 2 sailfish. Capt. John Batis and the Miss Emily crew won the Greater Wilmington King Mackerel Tournament with a 44.22 pound king.
We are right in the middle of tournament season and there are several more this weekend. The Long Bay Lady Anglers King Mackerel Tournament (www.oakislandfishingclub.net or 910-278-3512) will be at Oak Island, the Raleigh Saltwater Sportfishing Club King Mackerel Tournament (www.rswsc.org or 919-810-6763) will be at Atlantic Beach and the Island Harbor Marina KenCraft King Mackerel Tournament (252-354-3106) will be in Emerald Isle. Many N.C. fishermen will also be in Charleston, S.C. at the Wal-Mart FLW Kingfish Series SC/GA Division Tournament (www.flwoutdoors.com or 270-252-1000).